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RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2019 results

Male sparrow
Male sparrow

Mixed picture for UK’s garden birds

The results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch in January have revealed a mixed picture for the UK’s garden birdlife.

Fifteen of the top 20 species returning fewer sightings in gardens than in 2018.

This year, almost half a million people took part, counting about 7.5 million birds.

The house sparrow held on to its number one spot while there was a decrease in sightings of wrens (-17%) and long-tailed tits (-27%).

Starling in the apple tree
Starling in the apple tree

Beast from the East

Populations of both species may have been affected by last year’s ‘Beast from the East’ as small birds are more susceptible to spells of cold weather.

Starlings took second place, with the blue tit moving up one spot to round off the top three.

Schoolchildren also took part in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch in school grounds and saw close to 60,000 birds. The blackbird was the most numerous species seen with an average of eight per school and was seen in 89 per cent of all schools that took part.

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Over its long lifetime, the survey has shown the increasing good fortunes of birds such as the goldfinch and wood pigeon and the alarming declines of the house sparrow and starling.

Blue tit
Blue tit

House sparrows recover

“But there appears to be good news for one of these birds. While the overall decline in house sparrow numbers, reported by participants, since the Big Garden Birdwatch began is 56% (1979–2019), in the most recent decade (2009-2019) numbers appear to have increased by 10%, giving us hope that at least a partial recovery may be happening.

“This year’s survey also highlighted a rise in the number of sightings of redwings and fieldfares on last year’s figures.”

To highlight the loss of more than 40 million wild birds from the UK in just half a century, the RSPB has released a specially-created track of birdsong called Let Nature Sing.

The single contains birdsongs that we used to enjoy, but that are under threat, including the cuckoo, curlew, nightingale, crane and turtle dove who form part of the dawn chorus choir.

Robin
Favourite garden visitor – the robin

Download birdsong single

The charity is calling on the public to download, stream and share the single and help get birdsong into the charts for the first time.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation said: “The time we spend in nature, just watching and listening, can have huge benefits to our wellbeing, especially in these stressful times.

“The RSPB wants to help more people reconnect with their wilder sides and is bringing birdsong back into people’s busy lives by releasing a soothing track of pure unadulterated bird song.

“We hope that by understanding what we have lost that we inspire others to take part in the recovery.”

For a full round-up of results and to see which birds were visiting gardens where you live, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

Rank Species Average per garden % of gardens species recorded in 2019 LONG TERM Average per garden% change 1979 – 2019 Change since 2009
1 House sparrow 4.4 63 -56 10
2 Starling 3.1 41  -80 -13
3 Blue tit 2.6 77 8 0
4 Blackbird 2.3 87 -42 -9
5 Woodpigeon 2.3 77 1034 26
6 Goldfinch 1.8 34   71
7 Great tit 1.5 58 68 7
8 Robin 1.3 82 -33 5
9 Chaffinch 1.3 38 -57 -34
10 Magpie 1.2 54 192 27
11 Collared dove 1.1 43 275 -20
12 Long-tailed tit 1.0 26   45
13 Dunnock 0.8 43 0.0 -14
14 Jackdaw 0.8 21   37
15 Feral pigeon 0.7 16   62
16 Carrion crow 0.7 26   31
17 Coal tit 0.7 33 246 4
18 Greenfinch 0.4 15 -64 -56
19 Wren 0.3 21 58 16
20 Song thrush 0.1 11 -76 -40
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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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